Arizona’s Criminal Justice Process: What You Need to Know

three people in suits, lawyers, with paper and pens, a gavel and a stack of books with justice scales are on the table

In Arizona, like in most states, it is essential to understand the criminal justice process to navigate the legal system effectively. By familiarizing yourself with the laws specific to your state, you can better comprehend the intricacies of Arizona’s criminal justice system. Read on for answers to your most pressing questions about how criminal proceedings work in Arizona.

How does the arrest process work in Arizona?photo of person in handcuffs facing away from the camera. can only see their hands and their back.

If you are arrested in Arizona, the police will take you to a station for booking, or they will simply write a citation and release you. You can only be arrested if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. During this, your Miranda Rights will be read (spoken) to you by the officer. However, they may read them before your interrogation. 

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

The point is that you do not have to answer any incriminating questions. You have the right to remain silent, and that is important. It is always safe to wait for an attorney’s advice.

At the station, you’ll be asked identifying questions like your full legal name, date of birth, and address. You’ll have your photo taken and your prints taken to be entered into your record.

What are the different types of charges in Arizona?

bronze statue of lady justice holding scales of justice

The severity of the crime results in different types of charges in Arizona. 


These are the least severe type of criminal charge in Arizona. There are three classes of misdemeanors with different levels of penalties associated with them. Class 1 is the most serious, and Petty Offense is the least. 

Class 1 Misdemeanors: Punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include physical assault, domestic violence, theft of property under $1,000, and driving under the influence.

Class 2  Misdemeanors: Punishable by up to 4 months in jail and up to a $750  fine. Examples include reckless driving, minor consumption, certain types of assault, and criminal damage. 

Class 3 Misdemeanors: Punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Examples include loitering, criminal nuisance, and violation of promise to appear.

Petty Offense: Punishable with no jail and up to a $300 fine. Examples include possessing tobacco to or by a minor and unlawful feeding of wildlife. 

Click here to learn more about the difference between felony & misdemeanor.


These are the most serious type of criminal charge. As with misdemeanors, there are multiple classes of felonies with different severities.

Class 1 Felony: This is the most serious category of felony in Arizona. It includes first-degree murder, sexual assault, and armed robbery. The penalties for Class 1 felonies can range from life imprisonment to the death penalty.

Class 2 Felony: Class 2 felonies are also very serious offenses. Examples include manslaughter, aggravated assault, and kidnapping. The punishments for Class 2 felonies can consist of substantial prison sentences, ranging from 5 to 21 years.

Class 3 Felony: This category includes crimes like aggravated robbery, arson, and certain drug offenses. The penalties for Class 3 felonies can include prison terms ranging from 2.5 to 8.75 years.

Class 4 Felony: Class 4 felonies encompass crimes like burglary, theft of a vehicle, and possession of a narcotic drug. The punishments for Class 4 felonies can range from 1 to 3.75 years in prison.

Class 5 Felony: This category includes credit card fraud, forgery, and identity theft. These felonies carry penalties ranging from 6 months to 2.5 years in prison.

Class 6 Felony: Class 6 felonies are the least severe category of felonies in Arizona. Examples include DUI (with prior convictions), possession of marijuana for sale, and theft (between $1,000 and $2,000). The punishments for Class 6 felonies can include prison terms of up to 2 years.

With all these charges, the severity of the punishment varies depending on the gravity of the offense.

How does bail work in Arizona?

photo of judge gavel on desk with roll of hundred dollar American bills , with a small stack of fifty dollar bills in bottom corner

Bail plays a crucial role in the Arizona criminal justice process. Its purpose is to secure the release of individuals accused of a crime while ensuring their appearance in court for future proceedings. When determining bail in Arizona, several factors are considered, including the offense’s severity, the defendant’s criminal history, ties to the community, and flight risk.

There are different options for posting bail in Arizona. Cash bail requires the total amount paid in cash, while property bonds allow individuals to use real estate as collateral to secure their release. Another option is obtaining a bail bond from a licensed bail bond company, where a percentage of the bail amount is paid as a fee, and the company guarantees the full bail amount to the court.

Understanding how bail works in Arizona is vital as it can impact the duration of pretrial detention and allow individuals to prepare for their defense effectively. If you need help navigating this, reach out!

What are the possible outcomes of a criminal case in Arizona?

chest down view of person at desk with justice scales on desk and gavel

In Arizona, a criminal case can have various outcomes depending on the circumstances and evidence presented. The possible results include a finding of guilty, not guilty, or dismissed charges. The outcome of a case is influenced by factors such as the strength of the evidence, credibility of witness testimony, and effectiveness of legal arguments presented by both the prosecution and defense. For example, Arizona’s DUI penalties can range drastically depending on the charge you get.

Click here to learn more about Arizona’s DUI Penalties.

In some instances, alternative resolutions may be pursued. Diversion programs allow individuals to avoid traditional court proceedings by completing rehabilitation or educational programs. Plea bargains, on the other hand, involve negotiations between the prosecution and defense, resulting in a mutually agreed-upon plea and potential reduction in charges or penalties.

Understanding the potential outcomes of a criminal case in Arizona is essential, as it helps individuals and their legal representatives make informed decisions about their defense strategy and consider available options for resolution.

How long does the criminal justice process typically take in Arizona?

three people in suits, lawyers, with paper and pens, a gavel and a stack of books with justice scales are on the table

Defendants have the right to a prompt trial according to Rule 8 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the defendant is still in custody, a trial date must be established within 120 days from their initial appearance. For defendants who have been released from custody on bail or on their recognizance (OR), a trial date must be scheduled within 150 days from their initial appearance. However, in exceptional circumstances, the trial may take place beyond these time frames. The trial itself can last a few weeks or a few days, depending on how straightforward the case is.

What are your rights in Arizona criminal case proceedings?

neck to chest POV of man in orange jumpsuit with handcuffs

In Arizona criminal case proceedings, individuals accused of a crime are entitled to several fundamental rights. These rights include the right to legal representation, ensuring they have an attorney to advocate for their interests throughout the legal process. Additionally, they have the right to remain silent, protecting them from self-incrimination. Another crucial right is the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to confront witnesses, present evidence, and challenge the prosecution’s case.

Click here to learn more about what you should do if you’re arrested and charged in Coconino County.

How do appeals work in Arizona?

lawyer speaking at podium in front of judge

An appeal is a formal petition to a higher court seeking the reversal of a trial court’s decision or legal ruling, typically after a final judgment has been rendered. Once the lower court’s judgment is officially recorded, the party who lost the case (referred to as the appellant) can file a notice of appeal. The appellant may also request transcripts or other relevant records from the trial court. Then, the appellant presents a written brief to the appeals court, outlining the legal grounds and arguments for overturning the trial court’s ruling. It is important to note that no new evidence is considered or admitted during the appeal process.

During the appeals process, having legal counsel is crucial. An attorney can review the case, identify potential errors, and construct persuasive arguments to present before the appellate court. They can navigate complex legal procedures, gather necessary documentation, and ensure that the appellant’s rights are protected throughout the appeals process.

What support services are available for defendants in Arizona?

Lawyer and client sitting at table reviewing legal documents

There are various resources available to individuals seeking legal assistance in Arizona. They can consult with public defenders if they cannot afford private counsel. Additionally, nonprofit organizations, legal aid clinics, and bar associations offer resources and referrals to qualified attorneys who can provide guidance and representation based on the specific needs of the accused individual.

Here’s everything you need to know to prepare for a court hearing in Arizona.

Get the defense you deserve.

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At Antol & Sherman, we understand that navigating the legal system can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you navigate the Arizona criminal justice process. Call now for a free consultation with our experienced defense attorneys in Flagstaff, Arizona, or send us a note, and we’ll follow up via email.

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